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College basketball season has finally arrived.
UConn opens tonight against Maryland at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Game time is 6:30.
My coverage routine will be the same as last year. I will post a pre-game preview, tweet during the game (@GavinKeefe) and finish with some notes, quotes, video and news after the post-game press conference.
Here's a preview:
Probable starters: UConn, 6-0 jr. guard Ryan Boatright, 6-1 sr. guard Shabazz Napier, 6-5 so. guard Omar Calhoun, 6-8 jr. forward DeAndre Daniels, 6-10 so. center Phil Nolan
Maryland, 6-5 sr. guard Dez Wells, 6-6 jr. guard Nick Faust, 6-8 so. forward Jake Layman, 6-9 redshirt jr. Evan Smotrycz, 6-9 so. center Shaquille Cleare
-- The Huskies return all five starters from 20-10 team. The Terps went 25-13 last season and reached the NIT semifinals. Return 10 players, including three starters.
-- Wells shifted to point guard when Seth Allen (fractured foot) recently lost due to injury. Layman, a perimeter weapon, had team-high 23 points in exhibition win over Division III Catholic University on Monday.
-- Top reserve: 6-8 so. forward Charles Mitchell, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds vs. Catholic.
-- Key for UConn: Battle inside against beefy frontcourt players Cleare (265 lbs), Mitchell (260), Smotrycz (230), a Michigan transfer. The Huskies hope to utilize speed and play up-tempo.
-- Series: UConn leads, 3-2, losing last meeting 90-82 in the 2002 NCAA tournament East Regional championship in Syracuse.
-- Maryland picked seventh in ACC preseason poll. Coach Mark Turgeon is in third year.
-- First game for Huskies in the Barclays Center, the home of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.
-- According to the Baltimore Sun, 5-10 junior Varun Ram, who at Trinity College before transferring to Maryland, played the role of Boatright in practice and attempted to simulate the UConn guard's speed and pressure.
"Varun gets in you, which has really helped us," Turegon told the Baltimore Sun. "Varun is a little bit like Boatright because he never gives up. Boatright can go for like 80 minutes without stopping, it looks like.
"We'll have multiple guys who can handle the ball, but our whole team has to handle the pressure."
-- For the second straight year, UConn opens with a quality opponent. The Huskies beat nationally-ranked Michigan State in Germany last season.
Napier is happy that the Huskies will be challenged right now.
"I’m just ecstatic to see the guys play when the great competition comes, when Maryland steps ont the court, because I know these guys have a lot to prove and I’m hoping they play their best games so they can show everybody how talented they are.
"I don’t anybody on this team is scared or nervous of Maryland. I don’t think anybody on this team is scared or nervous of anybody. Once you step on the court, everything goes out the window.
"Maryland, they tie their sneakers the same way we tie our sneakers. They’ve just got Under Armour and we got Nike, that’s about it."
-- This will be a homecoming game for UConn freshman Terrence Samuel, Calhoun and walk-on Tor Watts who are all from Brooklyn. Freshman Kentan Facey attended high school at Long Island Lutheran.
Today’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal doubleheader is underway here at the XL Center in Hartford. A crowd in the 12,000-13,000 range is expected for the UConn-Tulsa game. Tip-off time is 5 p.m.